Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
News & Events – Winter 2000-2001

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Maine Agricultural Trades Show 2001
NOFA-VT Winter Conference
Northeast SARE Grant Applications Due Soon
Marketing by Bus
Portland Flower Show March 15-18
Fertile Ground for Local and Organic Food Sales
Organic Farm Website
New Outlet for Maine Products
Knox-Lincoln County Has New Extension Educator
ABC’s Stossel Reprimanded for 20/20 Misinformation
Fox Found Guilty Too
Organic Gardening Highlights Benefits of Grass-Fed Animals
Planting Mixtures of Rice Varieties Almost Doubles Yields
Planting Wheat May Help Apple Growers Manage Disease


Maine Agricultural Trades Show 2001

We’ll be sending a newsletter to all our members with a detailed schedule about our Maine Agricultural Trades Show program, including nominations for MOFGA offices for next year, but we wanted to give you a quick picture of some of the subjects we’ll be discussing on Tuesday, January 9, at the Augusta Civic Center.

High on the agenda is MOFGA’s annual meeting, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Other subjects we’ll be discussing include: the National Organic Standards (they should be released by then); Biodiversity: Organic Agriculture and Wildlife; Seeds; Marketing Your Products at (and to) the Common Ground Country Fair; Organic Dairy Options; and Maine’s Heirloom Apple Varieties.

The Trades Show is always a good time to get a few ideas for the year ahead; we hope to see you there!

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NOFA-VT Winter Conference

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) announces its 19th annual Winter Conference. This year the conference will be held on February 17, 2001, at the Vermont Technical College in Randolph, Vermont. “Farming as if Nature Mattered: Reconnecting Food Systems with Ecosystems” will address the question of how we can cultivate a food system that benefits both the ecosystem and the stewardship farmer. If we raise the bar of organic agriculture, that is, shift our perspective from that of the individual farm to the broader ecological landscape in which it functions, we inherently create a new marketing niche that cannot be co-opted by unsustainable producers.

Two notable figures in the national organic farming community, Mark Ritchie and Dana Jackson, will present a keynote address. Mark Ritchie, president of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, has been building bridges for 20 years between farmers and consumers in the United States and around the world. Dana Jackson, co-founder of The Land Institute, currently serves as Associate Director of The Land Stewardship Project, an 18-year-old Minnesota-based organization that fosters a renewed ethic of stewardship for America’s farmlands while promoting sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities. In addition to the keynote, over 30 workshops presented by experienced farmers and authors on a wide range of topics of interest to home gardeners, skilled growers, dairy farmers and concerned consumers will be offered for the anticipated 600 conference attendees. This year we’ll offer several workshop tracks, including: Direct Marketing, Livestock, Roots and Fruits, Gardening/Homesteading, Farming With the Wild, and Alternative Crops. Future farmers can attend the Children’s Conference for ages 6 to 13. The children’s conference offers farming related workshops, games and crafts. A colorful farmers’ market will be open during the day featuring educational materials, organic products, crafts, and associated businesses and non-profits.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association is a non-profit association of consumers, gardeners and diversified farmers who share a vision of local, organic agriculture. Through education and member participation, NOFA works together to strengthen agriculture in Vermont.

For more information contact:

Nicole Krotinger, Office Manager
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA VT)
P.O. Box 697 Richmond, VT 05477
Tel. 802.434.4122 Fax: 802.434.4154
[email protected]

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Northeast SARE Grant Applications Due Soon

The application deadline for the 2001 Farmer/Grower grants is December 4, 2000, and all interested producers in the Northeast are encouraged to submit their proposals. The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Northeast SARE) program supports farmers who want to move toward more sustainable and innovative production and marketing practices.

Grants in 2000 averaged $4,350 and supported a broad range of projects in agroforestry, marketing, on-farm demonstrations, and improved production practices on 62 farms across the region. The region is made up of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, W. Virginia and Washington, D.C.

To find out more or to get an application, call the Northeast SARE office at 802/656-0471. You can also download an application from the Northeast SARE web page at http://nesare.org/index.html.

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Marketing by Bus

Merryspring Park in Camden had a novel way to raise funds and promote local agriculture and other local producers this fall. The Park organized a bus tour of several midcoast businesses that sell Maine-made products. Participants paid $20 each, with proceeds to benefit Merryspring, and they got behind-the-scenes tours of each business, followed by time to buy the products the saw being made. Stops included the Maine Made Products Center at the State of Maine Cheese Company’s new Rockport facility; Morgan’s Mills in Union; the Cellar Door Winery in Lincolnville; and Danica Candleworks in Rockport. Refreshments were served at some stops.

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Portland Flower Show March 15-18

Here’s a thought to perk you up during the gray days of Winter – the Portland Flower Show. The theme for 2001 is “Garden Nooks of the North,” and the show runs from March 15 to 18 at the Fore Street Complex in Portland.

The MOFGA Garden Display has won an award each of the three years we’ve participated – a most noteworthy accomplishment since we’re competing against commercial flowers and nursery stock grown far and wide. As far as we know, no other flowers in the show are grown organically, but all of the plant material in the MOFGA Garden is grown by MOFGA certified-growers. In fact, plants, bulbs and other material are already growing at Old Stage Farm in preparation for the 2001 Flower Show.

It’s such a joy to be surrounded by the sight and smell of plants in bloom, especially in mid-March. Please come and join us! In addition to being organic, the MOFGA Garden has a couple of other unique aspects. MOFGA volunteers are on hand at the Garden to answer questions (volunteers don’t have to know everything – we usually have a “top ten” list of questions that they can be prepped to answer). A brochure that includes a description of MOFGA, an explanation of organic growing practices, and a list of the flowers and plants in the display is available and is really appreciated. Some of the plants and seeds for the flowers in the display are for sale in our vendor booth.

We need volunteers to staff the garden display and the sales booth. Please consider volunteering for a couple of hours; we need your help, and the show is a great opportunity to savor an early taste summertime. Contact Susan at the MOFGA office (568-4142) for more information.

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Fertile Ground for Local and Organic Food Sales

Local and organic foods are among the fastest growing segments of agriculture. For instance:

From 1994 to 2000, the number of farmers’ markets in the United States jumped from 1,755 to 2,863. In New England, Massachusetts has 94; Connecticut, 58; Maine, 54; Vermont, 41; New Hampshire, 29; and Rhode Island, thirteen.

Organic food sales in the United States rose from $78 million in 1980 to an estimated $6 billion in 2000, and the projected annual growth for organic foods is 20 percent. There are 12,000 organic farms in the United States – a number that is increasing by 12% per year.

Source: Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Agriculture, Aug. 9, 2000.

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Organic Farm Website

At the Organic Farm Network (www.farmorganic.net), farmers can create (for a monthly fee) web pages without knowing the HTML programming language. The site allows you to use ready-made sections and not to worry about layout. You just fill in the blanks. The first three sections – What’s New, Our Specialties, and Produce & Products – allow you to list your products and services with a description and photo. The second three sections are Our Favorite Links, Work for Us, and Visit our Farm. Customers can order your goods online, and the site tells how payment can be made over the net.

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New Outlet for Maine Products

In September, the State of Maine Cheese Company’s (SMC) new Maine Made Products Center opened on Route 1 in Rockport. The 9,000-square-foot facility combines retail and production facilities. “We will have a new state-of-the-art production facility and a first-class retail store to promote and sell SMC products,” said Cathe Morrill, SMC partner. “In addition, the new facility offers specialty food producers and others an incredible opportunity to expose their products to new customers and to increase sales.” The Department of Transportation estimates that 14,000 cars will pass the Maine Made Products Center every day. Aside from Interstate 95, Route 1 is the most heavily traveled highway in Maine.

At the store, each supplier will have a signature display exclusively for its products. Suppliers to date include Maine Gold (maple products), Borealis Bread, Carrabasset Coffee, Oakhurst Dairy and Sweet Sensations. Customers will be able to pick up educational materials, to sample many of the products offered for sale, and to register near the station where food is sampled. The registration material will become a database for SMC and suppliers to use for direct-mail sales materials. SMC received a $12,500 grant from the Agricultural Marketing Loan Fund to promote Maine agricultural products.

State of Maine Cheese looks forward to doing more retail business; it historically has sold 85 to 90% wholesale. “We are very proud of the quality of all of our products,” said Bill Swartzbaugh, SMC partner. “We know the producers that supply our milk. Each has signed a pledge to refrain from the use of [r]BST in production of their milk.”

Those interested in displaying products at the Maine Made Products Center can contact Cathe Morrill, Bill Swartzbaugh or Tom Kelly at 800-762-8895 or 207-236-8895; the website is www.cheese-me.com.

Source: “State of Maine Cheese Opens Maine-Made Product Center,” Agriculture Today, Maine Dept. of Ag., Food & Rural Resources, Sept. 11, 2000.

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Knox-Lincoln County Has New Extension Educator

After eight years without an agricultural extension educator, the Knox-Lincoln County Cooperative Extension has hired a quietly dynamic man who is wasting no time making up for lost time. Mark Hutchinson has been on the job since midsummer, and he is already immersed in programs and projects.

Hutchinson is no stranger to MOFGA, having inspected organic farms in Maine for the organization for several years. Originally from Binghamton, New York, he came to Orono in 1977 and earned his B.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Maine. He also got a high school teaching certificate in life sciences, and he met and married Jane Hutchinson while at the University.

For 15 years, Hutchinson taught field biology, anatomy and physiology at Mount View High School in Thorndike, and while there he met and worked with Waldo County Extension Educator Rick Kersbergen and District Soil Conservationist Randy Doak. “Randy offered his bus tour of [conservation] sites of Waldo County, and encouraged me to write a Challenge Grant to look at phosphorus levels in the watershed,” says Hutchinson. He got the grant, and he and his field biology students set to work collecting data. “The kids were outside all the time,” he says. Doak subsequently got another grant, using data collected by Hutchinson’s students, to help build manure storage facilities in the area.

Working with Cooperative Extension and the Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District, Hutchinson and his students looked at phosphorus levels and pre-sidedress N concentrations in order to refine nutrient management on dairy farms. This work, combined with the project he did with Doak, resulted in observable differences in life structures within the watershed. “It was neat how everything fell together and played itself out over the years...[how the project] mushroomed and grew... It was a neat combination of three agencies working on water quality issues,” he says. In 1990, his efforts were rewarded when he received the Conservation Education Teacher-of-the-Year Award.

During the summers, Hutchinson and his wife and their two boys raised small fruits and vegetables on a 3 1/2-acre farm in Plymouth. They grew strawberries, cole crops, peas and beet greens, which kept them busy seven days a week for 45 or 50 days, until the first of August. Then they took that month off for “family time.” In the fall, they sold melons, pumpkins, winter squash, gourds and Indian corn wholesale. His farming experiences enabled him to “understand some of the trials and tribulations farmers go through.” They put his wife’s accountant training to work doing the farm books – training she now plans to use by starting her own accounting business.

After 15 years at Mount View, Hutchinson felt that he “needed to grow professionally” but knew that he “didn’t want to become an administrator,” the only growth option in the school system. So he applied for the highly competitive Christa McAuliffe Fellowship and received it. He used the funding to return to Orono, where he got his M.S. in Ecology and Environmental Science, with an emphasis in Agronomy.

He returned to Mount View, where he taught until 1999, then was hired by the Univ. of N.H. Cooperative Extension Service to work as an extension educator in Carroll County. Shortly after that, the Knox-Lincoln County job opened. Hutchinson, anxious to be back in Maine (partly because his wife’s family lives in Houlton), applied for and got it.

His job focuses primarily on commercial dairy, beef and vegetable growing, and on home horticulture, including the Master Gardener program. When we spoke in September, he was still assessing the needs of the community – which stretches from Wiscasset to Camden along the coast, and inland almost to Augusta – and formulating plans. “I’m trying to get my constituents together, to meet as many people as I can, and to ask, ‘What do you need from Extension?’ When I hear things over and over, there’s probably a need.”

The three items that have been cropping up most frequently so far are the labor shortage in agriculture; issues about farmland conservation; and the need for him “just to be available for consultation.” Regarding labor, one issue is that local, nonfarming businesses can offer workers $10 to $12 an hour for work that is not physically demanding, and farmers cannot keep up with those rates. “Maybe we need to educate farmers about migrant labor laws,” he says.

Regarding farmland, he says that a lot of people want “to do land conservation easements.” Also, he and his constituents are interested in how “local government looks at farmland in town. Are there undue restrictions on farms? Or are restrictions farm friendly?” Different kinds of businesses should be treated differently, he believes. For example, “A farm stand is a lot different from a gas station.” While working in New Hampshire, Hutchinson was part of a state-wide coalition that was finding ways to preserve rural space through agriculture. One of the accomplishments of the coalition was to develop “a neat checklist for towns to see if they’re supporting local farms.”

As far as being available to answer questions, Hutchinson says that one of the main concerns coming his way is, ‘What do I do about Japanese beetles?’ These insects seem to be moving into his area of Maine, and he is looking for ways that home gardeners and farmers can deal with them. Nematodes have been somewhat successful, he says; milky spore disease doesn’t seem to survive here; but a new Bt product might be helpful.

Hutchinson’s geographic area is a hotbed of gardening enthusiasm, as evidenced by the 65 very active Master Gardeners already trained, and about 130 waiting to be trained. He and Rick Kersbergen are doing training sessions this fall and will do two more in the spring to accommodate 50 volunteers. He is actively looking for volunteer sites where the trainees can do their 40 hours of community service.

In addition to the large issues and day-to-day questions, Hutchinson has been involved in Knox-Lincoln Extension’s upcoming move to a new building, which may be erected on land at Medomak Valley High School. The 4,600-square-foot building will have a “nice conference room,” an office, and a “wet lab” for the marine science work that Extension does. In addition, land will be available for trials and demonstrations.

Hutchinson plans to continue to work closely with MOFGA: “It’s always been a positive experience for me to work with MOFGA people,” he says. “I think it’s important to foster Extension-MOFGA cooperation.
“I’m just excited to be here,” he adds warmly.

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Television Networks Discredited

ABC’s Stossel Reprimanded for 20/20 Misinformation

Last February, ABC News personality John Stossel reported that organic produce was no safer than conventional because no pesticide residues were found on either in test samples – even though ABC had no such test results. Stossel did not report on the air that traces of pesticides were found on conventional poultry but not on organic – even though ABC did have such test results.

The Washington-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) complained to ABC about the report after the February airing. The result? Stossel made the same erroneous report on July 7, when he said to anchorwoman Cynthia McFadden: “It’s logical to worry about pesticide residues, but in our tests, we found none on either organic or regular produce.”

When the EWG complained again, ABC reprimanded Stossel and suspended his producer, David Fitzpatrick, for 30 days. ABC did not say why Stossel was allowed to repeat his mistake even after the network knew that his information was erroneous.

The conservative Washington Times, generally supporting Stossel’s “pieces exposing the myths of political correctness,” said, “This time, however, it appears that Mr. Stossel and his crew crossed the line of journalistic standards in order to prove their premise.”

Stossel also reported that organic food is more likely to have deadly E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria on it than conventional food because it is more likely to be fertilized with manure. Stossel relied on widely discredited misinformation provided by Dennis Avery, a hired gun of corporate agriculture, for this report. In fact, the E. coli testing was not specific for this deadly new strain – a fact that was pointed out to Stossel before his February broadcast. In fact, most manure in the United States is produced in factory-farmed feedlots and is spread on conventional, chemical farms nearby. Organic farmers have strict rules governing the use of manures, so that organic food should, theoretically, contain less E. coli 0157:H7 than conventional. Also, the tendency for feedlots to feed high-grain diets to cattle living in crowded conditions can cause E. coli 0157:H7 to proliferate, according to research done at Cornell University and reported in Science.

Sources: AP reports by David Bauder, 8/8/00; 8/11/00; “ABC At It Again,” Washington Times editorial, 8/9/00; letter to ABC News from Maria Rodale and Cheryl Long, Editor-in Chief and Senior Editor, Organic Gardening Magazine; Science, 9/11/98, Vol. 281, p. 1666-68; for more information about E. coli 0157:H7, go to www.Safefood.org; for more about the 20/20 report, go to www.ewg.org.

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Fox Found Guilty Too

A Florida jury decided on Aug. 18 that the Fox Television network pressured Jane Akre and Steve Wilson to broadcast false, distorted and slanted news in a report that the husband-and-wife team produced about recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). The two found widespread, secretive use of rBGH by Florida dairy farmers and said that Florida supermarkets reneged on promises not to sell milk from cows treated with rBGH until it had been accepted by consumers. In their lawsuit, Akre and Wilson charged that Fox Television, owned by the multinational News Corp (owned by Rupert Murdoch), was pressured by Monsanto to violate Florida’s whistleblower act by firing the journalists for refusing to broadcast false reports about what they had found and for threatening to report the TV station’s conduct to the Federal Communications Commission. The jury awarded Akre $425,000 in damages from her former employer; it decided that Wilson’s resistance to distorting the news and his threat to report Fox’s misconduct to the FCC was not “the” reason the station chose not to renew his contract. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is injected into 5 to 10% of U.S. dairy cows, but is banned in Canada, Europe, Japan and other industrialized nations.
(BioDemocracy News #29, Sept. 2000; Agribusiness Examiner, 8/4/00; see also www.foxBGHsuit.com)

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Organic Gardening Highlights Benefits of Grass-Fed Animals

Chickens crowded so tightly that they can barely turn, and without daylight or a single blade of grass. Beef cattle standing all day in their own manure with no access to fresh grass, their natural diet for thousands of years. Dairy cattle injected with genetically engineered growth hormones to force milk production. These are merely three of the examples of the ill kept animals that feed us, according to “Factory Farming is Fouling Our Food” in the Nov./Dec. 2000 issue of Organic Gardening.

Merely switching animals to a more natural grass-based diet can solve many of these problems, OG reports. Following are just a few examples of the health risks of factory animal farming and the health benefits of grass products as outlined in OG’s report and in its new book, Why Grassfed is Best!

Grain-Fed. vs. Grass-Fed

Higher levels of acid-resistant E. coli: Feeding cattle a grain diet vs. grass makes their digestive system more acidic, resulting in greater numbers of a dangerous form of E. coli bacteria and, in turn, increasing the risk to consumers of food poisoning.

More fat: Steaks from grain fed cattle contain 30% to 50% more fat than those from grass-fed cattle.

More pollution: Factory farms produce an enormous amount of manure – more than can safely be used by local farms. Pasture-raised cattle naturally return their manure to the fields, building soil fertility.

Higher cholesterol: Eggs from confined chickens contain 33% more cholesterol than those from free-range chickens.

Less essential omega-3 fatty acids: Meat from grain-fed animals has two to six times less heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grass-fed animals.

Fewer anticancer agents: Products from grass-fed animals are much richer in a newly discovered healthful fat called “conjugated linoleic acid,” which may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer.

Less essential vitamins: Grass-fed products contain four to five times more vitamin E and 50% more vitamin A, as well as more beta-carotene.

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Planting Mixtures of Rice Varieties Almost Doubles Yields

While biotechnology continues to disappoint growers regarding yield, a return to the traditional practice of growing more than one variety of a crop in a field is having the opposite effect – and dramatically so. When Chinese, Philippine and U.S. scientists grew disease-susceptible rice varieties along with resistant varieties in one field, they had 89% greater yield and 94% less blast (a fungal disease) than when they were grown in monocultures. Growing different varieties of the same species in one field is a common feature of “less developed” agriculture. “The experiment was so successful,” say the scientists, “that fungicidal sprays were no longer applied by the end of the two-year program.” The lead scientist, Youyong Zhu, suggested that the spread of disease was reduced by increasing the distance between susceptible plants. The experiment, in which thousands of farmers in the Yunnan province participated, was reported in the Aug. 16, 2000, issue of Nature. In an accompanying article, scientist Martin Wolfe suggested that the mixture approach was not used more widely because farmers worry abut product quality and harvesting problems. These problems evaporated in practice, he said. “The mixture approach represents a simple ecological way of dealing with disease while maintaining production from high yielding varieties.”

Source: “Old Style Rice Growing Better Than New Monocultures,” Reuters, 8/16/00.

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Planting Wheat May Help Apple Growers Manage Disease

Growing wheat before planting a new apple orchard on former orchard land may help growers prevent a crippling condition known as replant disease. It could also serve as an alternative to methyl bromide and other soil fumigants typically used to sterilize old orchards before planting new ones.

When nothing is done between taking out an old orchard and putting in a new one, the young trees are often stunted and have small, decayed root systems. Plant pathologist Mark Mazzola at ARS’ Tree Fruit Research Laboratory in Wenatchee, Wash., discovered that in the Pacific Northwest, replant disease seems to be caused by buildup of four types of soilborne fungi.

While soil where apple trees grow supports these fungi, wheat plants seem to modify the soil to favor other microorganisms. Mazzola found a bacterium in some wheat soils, Pseudomonas putida, that can protect young apple roots from the destructive fungi. The ARS has patented use of a strain of this bacterium to prevent replant disease.

The next step is to determine how long wheat would have to be grown as a rotation crop to change the soil microbial community enough to stave off replant disease. Mazzola will also look at whether growing the wheat as a cover crop in existing orchards can reduce fungal populations sufficiently to allow new trees to grow well.

Source: ARS News Service, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Kathryn Barry Stelljes; Scientific contact: Mark Mazzola, ARS Tree Fruit Research Laboratory, Wenatchee, Wash., phone (509) 664-2280, fax (509) 664-2287, [email protected]

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MOF&G Cover Winter 2000-2001